Vll Gates - Fire, walk with me 3.5/5

Reviewed: 7-29-05


1. Bounded by hate
2. The saviour
3. Seconds left to live
4. Under the crossed bones
5. So far away
6. Tormented
7. Love bullet
8. A dark room of my mind
9. Like a rock
10. The madman inside

This Swedish band, on their first full-fledged and only release, from 2003, delivers a crisp, fresh, and overall sharp take on the basic European power metal and traditional metal sound. The first track, "Bounded by Hate", which is probably the most diverse, reminds me of the later 90s sounds from Europe, where bands like Sea of Flames, Elegy, The Crows, Conception, Heaven's Gate, Tad Morose and Mind Odyssey were melding a traditional Euro-power metal sound with a bit more complexity, edge, and progressive bent, before their subsequent CDs either went one way or another. Singer Criss Blackburn on the first song delivers smooth, polished singing, in the typical, somewhat higher pitched European power metal flavor, but also rasps into a cool version of nasty Halford for the chorus (pretty appropriate, when a lot of live photos feature him mostly hairless, with a shirtless black leather vest and jumbo spiked armbands). His vocals, remaining strong and clean, tend toward the smoother spectrum throughout most of the CD. "The saviour" is more of a burning, straight forward track, but pretty effective. The CD continues delivering up solid gems in the traditional heavy metal vein with European flavoring, with the departure for a ballad like "So far away". Songs like "A dark room of my mind" towards the end deliver more of the uptempo that was expected after the first couple of tracks, but don't expect Dragonforce, there's a good amount of midtempo material on here in the plain old heavy metal vein. The CD closes out with the more epic style of "The madman inside."

Guitarists JJ Rockford and Basti Makek (yes, these Swedish gents have definitely adapted some stage names) deliver both straight forward metal riffs ("The saviour"), and some really stirring lead melodies ("Bounded by hate", "Under the crossed bones"). Drummer Mick Van Slowfoot on drums and Moe Arson on bass lay out a solid and pretty straight forward rhythm section. Tim Diaz provides the obligatory keyboards, but in a manner that is not so ostentatious that it waters down the heaviness or metallic feeling of the CD.

The back of the cover, featuring the band and some bikini clad ladies on a car gives a rather disorienting impression, because this is nothing less than straight forward metal, not hard rock oriented material, with perhaps an exception in "So far away" or lyrically, the below referenced "Love bullet". The lyrics cover somewhat typical but welcome metal subjects of insanity, war, death, pirates ("Under the crossed bones"), bullying andviolent revenge ("Tormented"). "Like a rock" however is not the Bob Seger song but an original tone. All in all, nothing fantastic in the lyric department, but also completely adequate. I'm ignoring, for these purposes a song called "Love bullet", which isn't as bad as it sounds. The production is rather exquisite, with sharp, cutting guitar riffs, and overall great clarity and strength coming through the speakers. It is an absolute strength and welcome presence on the CD, as it highlights the quality of the vocals and guitar.

Bottom line, a damn solid and effective metal CD, while nothing overly original in its style and fantastic in the lyrics, it is an extremely well wrought iteration of enjoyable metal. This should especially appeal to fans of mid-era Scanner, The Crows, German Avalanche, heavier Stormwitch, etc., that, is, generally more European flavored heavy metal than it is power metal, without that 5th gear of velocity. In fact, despite getting a CDR to review from the record company, I'm definitely going to try and go out and locate a real version of this for my collection.




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